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Forgiveness – A Reflection

January 10, 2020

Forgiveness is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Depending upon your particular denomination debts/debtors is replaced by trespasses/trespass against us or sins/sin against us. In addition to this prayer, Jesus had more to say about forgiveness.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.–Matthew 6:14-15

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.–Matthew 18:21-22

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”–Luke 6:37-38

Of course the ultimate example of forgiveness is found at the foot of the Cross when Jesus forgave those who had judged him in a kangaroo court, then beaten and tortured him. He also forgave the ones who were about to execute him.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” –Luke 23:34a

As I look upon the world today and as I look into my own life, I see a tremendous amount of talk about “getting even” or retribution… our state and federal prison system (and immoral for-profit prisons) are about retribution instead of rehabilitation or restorative justice. We are also in the middle of yet another conflict where words and missiles are exchanged in a tit-for-tat escalation. Unless reason and sound judgment arise, we will be in yet another global conflict.

Below is a quote that is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi which summarizes his philosophy of nonviolence. His philosophy in turn, greatly influenced Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King. Jr., and the American Civil Rights movement. — “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Yes, these words strike right to the core of the matters before us today.

The quote that actually started this exploration and reflection for me came from Thomas Merton’s little book, Silence, Joy. In this particular chapter titled “Some Words from the Desert Fathers” Merton shares quotes from the early Desert Fathers. “One of the elders was asked what was humility, and he said: If you forgive a brother who has injured you before he himself asks pardon.” Forgiveness is tied directly to humility. This humility or humble spirit is the polar opposite of humiliation which we see a lot on the world stage today.

In his writings and explorations, Merton shows us how we can learn a lot from our spiritual ancestors about faith and life. In my own life and studies, I have learned much and continue to learn from the Masters. Whether it is Jesus, Gandhi, Howard Thurman, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, or Martin Luther King, Jr.; we can learn a great deal and be challenged in our own thinking and actions.

As I reflect on my own life and actions, the picture at the top of the blog makes sense. The footprints of various birds on the sand at Perdido Key in Florida represent the many influences in my own spiritual journey.

They can also represent my life with all of its ups and downs, failures and successes. Forgiveness… as the tide washes away the prints in the sand, so does God’s forgiveness wash away our sins. In my own life and in the world today, we sure do need a more loving, caring, and forgiving way of living.

Thank you dear reader, for taking the time to read and reflect with me. My prayer is that this transformation will grow until the words of the prophet come true: He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.–Isaiah 2:4

May it be so dear Lord I pray.

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